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Elderly in care homes to be 'hit twice' for water

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Over 60,000 are expected to protest

Over 60,000 are expected to protest

 CAREER: Ogle denies political ambitions

CAREER: Ogle denies political ambitions

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Over 60,000 are expected to protest

Vulnerable older people who are full-time residents of nursing homes will still have to pay water charges of €125 a year for their unoccupied properties, the Herald can reveal.

The news comes as more than 60,000 people are expected to take to the streets of Dublin tomorrow to protest against Irish Water and the Government.

Documents obtained by the Herald outlined how even people who are too sick to leave a nursing home or other residential care facility will still have to pay the hated charge.

Nursing homes already pay water rates of up to €6,700 a year in some parts of the country.

The provision was made clear in an update sent by Irish Water to Oireachtas members on November 20.

Under the heading "What charge will people resident in nursing homes have to pay?" the company spelled out the policy.

disquiet

"If they are fully resident in the nursing home, but still retain their primary residence, they should pay the unoccupied dwelling charge on their primary residence," it said.

The note continued that a minimum charge of €125 would arise for such dwellings or €62.50 for "a single service" - meaning only waste water usage or water supply services at the unoccupied house.

The company said that if the dwelling was a primary residence rather than being a secondary home, the nursing home resident would be eligible for the €100 water conservation grant, "making the potential net cost to such persons €25 for the year".

The provisions were outlined in an update for TDs and senators following the Government's attempt to quell disquiet about the utility company by changing the price structure.

Different council areas have different pricing structures for businesses in their administrative areas.

For Clare County Council, for example, a specific figure is given for the rate paid by nursing homes. That figure is €3,300 for 30 bedrooms or fewer, or €6,700 for more than 30.

"Non-domestic users of public water and waste water services such as nursing homes are now customers of Irish Water," the company said.

"Irish Water is currently charging non-domestic customers at the same tariffs as those applied by local authorities in 2013."

It added that the Commission for Energy Regulation would publish a timeline for the establishment of an enduring tariff framework for non-domestic customers by the end of this year.

Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland said it appeared that certain people would be charged twice for their water and called on the Government to put an end to that situation.

"It does seem like they are being hit twice for their water. In the case where they are going in to nursing homes under the Fair Deal scheme, the State knows that they are moving in," he said.

"There are a lot of people in nursing homes who would not have anyone to look after them.

"The State should be aware of people who are being charged in this way and they should put an end to it. There's no justification for charging people twice."

Mr Timmins also said that it should be made clear to elderly people how to claim back their water conservation grant.

Gardai expect massive numbers at the protest tomorrow, with conditions in the capital forecast to be bitterly cold.

Rally organisers have been advised to move to the Merrion Square side of Leinster House, which can accommodate bigger numbers than Kildare Street and Molesworth Street where the protest was originally planned to take place.

The three-hour event, starting at 1pm, will include music and performances by some big acts who have offered support.

Over the weekend, organiser Brendan Ogle of Mandate repeated a call for troublemakers to stay away from "this peaceful national assembly".

A garda spokesman told the Herald that depending on the size of the protests there would be rolling road closures.

disruption

He said it was up to people to plan their journeys accordingly.

The size of the protest is likely to cause significant traffic disruption at the height of the Christmas season.

A recent opinion poll showed that at least 30pc of householders would not be paying their water charges despite recent concessions.

One of the organisers, Paul Murphy, said last night that buses would bring people from across the country, with at least 20 coming from Donegal.

"I would say that if anything over 30,000 people turn up, it's a definite signal that Alan Kelly's plan has failed," he said.

He added that stages would be set up at Merrion Square, with a number of musicians and speakers lined up to take part.

hnews@herald.ie


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